They say Americans don’t like hatchbacks. With the 2012 Audi A7, Audi is betting that they’re wrong. Because, really–despite Audi calling it a sedan–there’s nothing else to call the A7 but a hatch: a walking, talking, pop-the-hatch hatchback. Ah, but it looks so good doing it that no one need ever know, at least until you push the shopping cart up behind the A7 in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly.
Even still, when the A7’s hatch goes up, it gets attention, as in, what a beautiful car…and how many bags of mulch can I throw in the back of it with the rear seat lowered. Well, maybe not bags of mulch, but you can watch the cogs turning as people seeing the A7 in operation for the first time think what they could do with a beauty–using the term in its strictest sense–like this.
And the Audi A7 is beautiful, certainly from behind. There’s a flowing roofline that tapers down to a short deck (which includes a pop-up spoiler that rises at 80 mph and retracts at 50 mph–though it can be raised or lowered manually as well) along the lines of the currently fashionable four-door coupe. Those cars typically compromise cargo hauling capability with a short rear deck. Although the trunklid typically opens to a trunk with a sizable volume, the opening itself is small, and even semi-large items won’t fit through the hole.
That’s not a problem for the 2012 Audi A7. The large 24.5 cubic foot trunk is fully useable for anything that will fit the length, width and height. But the A7 has the option of folding the rear seat, and though sedans may have a folding the rear seat for a pass-through, the problem of getting large items in remains.
Lowering the seatbacks on the A7, however, opens up a whole new world of cargo capacity. Two panels normally separating the standard trunk from the passenger compartment must be remove for full usage of the full cargo area. One is attached to the hatch while the other spans trunk, covering the space just behind the rear seat.
The steep angle of the rear window, however, limits cargo capacity, at least for tall items. The A7 isn’t an A6 Avant–even if Audi were to change its mind about not bringing the new generation of the mid-size Audi wagon to the U.S.
(The Audi A6 Avant is popular in Europe, which looks more favorably on station wagons than does the U.S., which is more interested in the Audi Q5 and Q7 crossover SUVs as high-volume cargo-haulers).
In addition to limiting ultimate cargo room, the fastback roofline also limits headroom for rear seat passengers, for which the Audi A7 is configured for two only. The A7 has generous legroom but those over about 5′ 11″ will be bumping their noggins on the roof and rear window. The curve of the roofline also hinders entry to the rear seat for even shorter people. It’s a matter of lean forward and mind your head. The biggest problem with the A7’s hatch, however, is that by being so large and opening the rear half of the passenger compartment, rear seat passengers especially are exposed to whatever weather happens to be going on at the moment.